A wildfire in Portugal overtook forests in central Portugal, leading to the death of at least 61 people as a result.
The fire, which Prime Minister Antonio Costa called, “a dimension of human tragedy that we cannot remember,” started Saturday and was still burning as of Sunday afternoon, requiring the attention of around 1,600 firefighters over the weekend. Jorge Gomes, the secretary of state for internal administration in Portugal, told reporters that of the 60-plus deaths, roughly half of the casualties were a result of people being trapped within a wall of flames, burned alive in their own cars.
"Many cars could not get out and people burned to death inside their cars," said Gomes. An additional 17 bodies were found near the road, with some speculating that those people were attempting to flee from their trapped cars before they met their tragic fate.
Once the scope of the fire was realized, emergency reinforcements were sent in by European Union officials, with police and military units joining Portuguese firefighters and a pair of Spanish planes in the effort to stop the inferno. Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, promised full support for the country during this tragic period.
"We express our condolences to those that have lost loved ones," he said. "The EU is fully ready to help. All will be done to assist the authorities and people of Portugal at this time of need."
Additional support for Portugal came in from all around the world. Pope Francis reserved time for Portugal during his weekly Sunday prayer, and leaders from several countries, including Spain and India, joined Pope Francis in expressing their condolences for those impacted by the wildfire.
Sobrecogido por la tragedia de Pedrógão Grande. El pueblo portugués cuenta con nuestra solidaridad, apoyo y cariño, @antoniocostapm. MR— Mariano Rajoy Brey (@marianorajoy) June 18, 2017
Sad to learn of tragic loss of lives in the forest fire in Portugal. Deepest condolences to the Portugese people on this tragedy.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 18, 2017
Portugal's men's soccer team, slated to play in a Confederations Cup match on Sunday, enlisted the help of their opponent from Mexico before the game, as the two teams held a moment of silence for the people who lost their lives over the weekend.
Both teams gathered before KO to remember those who lost their lives in the Portugal forest fires near Coimbra. pic.twitter.com/pvxlUNp6iz— #ConfedCup (@FIFAcom) June 18, 2017
The wildfire has had a dramatic effect on operations within central Portugal. Prime Minister Costa claimed schools in the municipalities of Pedrogão, Figueiró, and Castanheira are all set to be closed indefinitely, and any related exams will be postponed until further notice.